(Intro with music)
Welcome to Keeping it Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered for photographers who want to keep it real. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, international wedding and family photographer and educator with a Marie Kondo style approach to running a business – you know, keeping things simple and getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy!. More importantly, I’m a strong enneagram 3w2 who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for travelling is one of many things that drives my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me twice a month for a candid, behind the scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer – where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends! So grab your favourite notebook and pen, and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Welcome friends, to the very first episode of Keeping It Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered with yours truly, Sandra Henderson.
This podcast is all about what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer. An unfiltered, no-fluff, behind-the-scenes look – because keeping it real is what I do best, and I think it’s how we truly grow as photographers and business owners. Sugar-coated half-answers and veiled lessons aren’t helping anyone so you’re not going to find any of that here!
This week, I wanted to start things off with a little ‘get to know you’ episode – sharing a bit about the adventures that led me to where I am today, and all about what to expect this season on the podcast!
I’ve been working as a wedding photographer for more than a decade, and just celebrated nine years as a business owner at the beginning of March. But I’m actually in a life-long relationship with photography. It started with me begging my parents to buy me disposable cameras all the time in elementary school – do you guys remember those?! Talk about nostalgia that I miss some days.
When I went to high school I took a photography class as soon as I could, and that’s where I learned how to develop my own prints and 35mm film. Shout-out to my high school photography teacher, Mr. Stocco, who to this day is still one of the biggest inspirations in my life.
Next came college – a couple of times. When I was 19 and a new student in a new city, I was really struggling with depression and anxiety. Going to class was at the bottom of my list of priorities. I ended up flunking out during my first year, but after a few years of working I knew it was “now or never” and I decided to apply to college one more time. That was the decision that changed it all.
I graduated two years later, worked with some local photographers, and less than a year after that, in 2013 Life is Beautiful Photography was born.
When I started my business, I dreamed of multi-wedding weekends, back-to-back sessions, and hundreds of clients stepping in front of my camera every year.
I shot my first wedding in 2014.
Then two more in 2015.
12 in 2016, including my first destination wedding.
In 2017 I had 27 weddings on my calendar, and by 2019 I had photographed weddings in five different countries.
This was it. This was what I had been dreaming of and I was SO so excited.
But there was a whole other side of things that I hadn’t planned for. Something no one really talks all that much about…
… And that was keeping the back-end of my business going when I was spending every second behind my camera. And not to mention, trying to have a life outside of work.
I’ll be honest – in 2018 almost every session and wedding gallery for my clients was delivered past its deadline. I was constantly apologizing to everyone, regularly putting out fires because I couldn’t stay on top of the work that needed to be done. I wasn’t showing up on social media. I wasn’t blogging. I was avoiding my inbox at all costs. And I definitely wasn’t taking time off to rest and refill my energy so that I could keep showing up to do my best work.
All of a sudden I was working 16 hour days, 7 days a week, and my to-do list just kept getting longer. I wasn’t happy. My clients weren’t happy, and I was completely burnt out. My business was in a downward spiral.
I’ll never forget the day when my husband, Matt, called me from work. I was sitting on my couch crying, ready to give this all up for good. Through tears, I said “I can’t keep doing this. I have to close my business.”
One thing I can always rely on Matt for though is stopping me from making rash decisions. And that’s exactly what he did that day. He reminded me how hard I had worked and how far I had come. He told me to just remove myself from it all and take a break so I could come back with a clear perspective and really decide what was going to be best for me. Which, around these parts, usually means he’s suggested I go take a nap! Naps are one of my favourite things in life and they make everything a little better. I think everyone should be able to work nap time into their days, but maybe I’ll save that for another episode because legit – I can talk about the benefits of napping forever.
Anyway – that takes us to 2020. When everyone’s world was rocked. And on top of all things pandemic, I also had to navigate something that was contributing to my physical and mental burnout.
Less than a month before the whole world shut down, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis. I could also talk for hours about what that all means – but a little summary for context – endometriosis is an incurable disease that causes chronic pain and inflammation among a myriad of other things.
It forced me to make a lot of changes. Like, a LOT. And within the next year, I changed more than I think I have in my entire life. All for the good though – and it’s what would eventually lead me here, to starting this podcast.
I knew that if I wanted to continue growing this business I’d worked so hard to build, I was going to have to find a way to work differently while still maintaining financial stability.
SURE! That sounds easy enough, right?!
Well, it turns out, it actually was a lot easier than I expected it to be.
I started making small changes to the systems, workflows, and processes I was using behind the scenes. Things like creating a permanent auto-responder, outsourcing my editing, and finding amazing client and task management tools that worked the way I needed them to. I began realizing just how important proper systems are – not only for my health and wellbeing, but for the success of my business, and for the incredible experience that I want each and every client that I work with to have.
Finally, things were starting to fall back into place. I was exceeding deadlines, referrals were back to being one of my main sources of revenue, and even though I was prioritizing myself first, my clients were happier than ever. I realized that the people who want to work with me understand and respect the fact that I’m human and can’t be all the things to all the people all the time. If that’s what a client needs or wants, they’ll absolutely be able to find another photographer who can serve them best. I tried that and like I said – no one was happy! Running a business isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. I was done trying to do things the way that everyone else was saying that I should be!
And as I was making these changes, I started noticing how many other wedding photographers who, each with their own reasons, were struggling in the same ways I was.
They were saying things like:
“I just need to get through the next couple of weeks and then my life will calm down and I can get caught up.”
“Things are just too crazy right now, I’m exhausted.”
“I’m so behind in editing/emails/blogging/social media.”
“I’m not where I should be at this point in business.”
I’ve said all of that and more myself, so I knew exactly how they were feeling. And if I know you, you can probably relate to some of these, too.
I became so passionate about wanting wedding photographers – my friends, colleagues, and especially newcomers in the industry – to never feel like that again.
So throughout this season I’ll be dropping new episodes every two weeks, and we’ll be talking about things like structuring your workweek, building a network of dream-team vendors, creating systems for social media, giving your clients such an amazing experience that they sing your praises from the rooftops, and so much more. Because you deserve to have the business you dreamed of having long before you ever decided to do the work to make it happen. And you deserve to have the LIFE that goes along with it, too!
I heard a quote years ago when I was first starting out. I’m totally paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of “No one ever started a business because they wanted to work more.”
We start businesses because we dream of the freedom and fulfillment that comes with pursuing our passions. To escape the 40-hour workweeks inside a cubicle where we have to ask permission for a day off. Trading it in, instead, for the excitement that we get when we’re behind our cameras. To be able to travel the world and be home with our families and spend every single birthday celebrating with the people we love the most.
You deserve it all, friends, and my goal is to give you actionable takeaways in every episode to be able to do just that.
And in between each episode?! Come join me and so many other incredible wedding photographers just like you in the Wedding Photography: Unfiltered community on Facebook! It’s a space to ask questions, get feedback, join in conversations – plus a few perks along the way that I am so excited about, like open office hours where you’ll be able to join me on a video call for one-on-one coaching!
For a link to join, and to stay up-to-date with everything happening here at Keeping It Candid, head to my website – simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid/
Ok, before I sign off – Remember how I said there would be actionable steps in every episode?!
This one is no exception!
Go into your calendar right now and set aside at least one day each month throughout busy season that you will intentionally take off work. That means no emails, no editing, no camera – a day where you give yourself permission to lay in front of the tv, go for a walk, scroll through social media for as long as you want to, hang out with your family and friends – whatever it is that fills your heart and soul. Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to time off – your health legitimately requires it, both physically and mentally. The first step to creating the business and life that you’ve always dreamed of is actually putting yourself and your wellbeing first!
And on that note – thank you SO much for being here, friends!! I’m so excited to have you along on this podcast adventure with me this season. I’ll be back in two weeks with a brand new episode!
(Outro with music)
Thanks so much for listening to Keeping It Candid: Wedding Photography Unfiltered with Sandra Henderson! You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime – let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @simplysandrayvonne, and on Facebook in The Wedding Photography: Unfiltered Community! If you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave me a review!
Until next time!